Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Submissions to Small Presses

Mari L. Barnes
Flying Turtle Publishing

This month at IWC, we’re blogging about the submission process. I wanted to tell you something you haven’t already heard a million times about sending your Works of Great Fiction (WGF) out into the world. So, I’ve decided to offer a very personal view from the owner/Chief Everything Wrangler of a small press.
1.   Don’t just “shotgun” your WGF into the literary stratosphere. Figure out what you want to achieve. If you want an agent, submit to agents. Most of them don’t take kindly to knowing that you’re submitting to agents, small presses and “e-only” publishers simultaneously. Do your research and send your WGF to the agents, publishers, and publications that are a good fit for your work.
For me: I’m small, I’m local. You may know me personally or I’m the friend of a friend. I’m a small BUSINESS owner. You should still look at my website to see if I publish your genre and am accepting submissions.
  1. You’ll find submission guidelines on most agents’ and publications’ websites or in the publications themselves. Review the guidelines and follow the submission guidelines to the letter.
For me: Flying Turtle’s submission guidelines are under the Media Room tab. I will be issuing a call for submissions in February of 2016. Most small presses accept submissions for a limited time, perhaps a month, each year.
  1. Keep your query and cover letter succinct. Don’t send your manuscript in a pizza box or use any other cutesy games or fancy tricks to get agents’ or editors’ attention.
For me: “Here’s a piece of my story to wet (sic) your appetite. Email me back if you want to see more.” This approach makes my head hurt. And I never want to see more. Aside from the error, I’m serious about what I do and games waste time that I, as Chief Everything Wrangler, don’t have to spare.
  1. Once you’ve sent your submission, sit back and wait. Do not harass or annoy agents or editors by bombarding them with follow-ups. If the guidelines don’t indicate how long it should take for you to receive a response, wait six weeks before following up.
For me: It’s perfectly acceptable to email and inquire whether I’ve received your submission if I haven’t responded in the 7 to 10 business days’ response time.
  1. If you receive an acceptance, great! If you receive a rejection, celebrate yourself. You’re a writer and you’re working all the steps. Then get back to work. Don’t stop writing! If you’re lucky enough to receive any helpful feedback, be grateful (most agents and editors don’t take time to provide feedback) and use it on your next WGF.
For me: I rarely offer writing critiques, as I’m always working to improve my own writing. My editorial team will occasionally offer suggestions for improvement, and those get passed on to writers.
Finally, please don’t make the mistake of treating small presses as “rebound relationships” or publishers of last resort. We’re not sitting around waiting for you to choose us because: (a) we’re happy that someone wants to publish with us, (b) we’re not busy and are simply waiting for someone to send us something, or (c) we’re better than nothing.
Submit to small presses because you want to work with them, and use the same professionalism you’d use with the Big 6. Good writing and good luck!

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